This morning I escorted a small group from the tobacco industry on a short walking tour around the centre of Glasgow to identify sites, places, buildings and streets connected with the tobacco which flourished here around 240 years ago.

Glasgow grew to prominence as a mercantile centre through trading in tobacco which reached a peak aroundthe period 1740-1775. In essence, Glasgow supplied the American colonies with essential manufactured goods with the ships returning mainly with tobacco from Maryland and Virginia, but also sugar and other products from the Caribbean. The tobacco, which was exchanged for manufactured goods was on-sold, mainly to the French market.

By 1770s Glasgow controlled over half of all British trade in tobacco which was immensely profitable and created huge wealth for the businessmen who controlled the industry. Names like Glassford, Buchanan and Dunlop remain enshrined today in the form of Glasgow street names.

The tobacco industry, which was so central to Glasgow’s prosperity, came to a halt at time of the American Revolution around 1775 when the trade collapsed as the former colonies were no longer obligated to¬†transport tobacco in British ships and traded direct with Europe.

However, whilst many of the ‘Tobacco Lord’ fortunes dissipated almost overnight , some of the wealth had been invested in manufacturing industries which continued to prosper and resulted in a solid foundation for furture growth¬†with Glasgow featuring at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and growing in prosperity to become the ‘second city of the (British) Empire’.

Here are images from our ‘Tobacco Trail’ this morning:

Glassford Street is named after a very wealthy family which, at its peak imported, 10pct of all tobacco received in Britain.

Glassford St, Glasgow

Glassford St, Glasgow, Scotland

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